The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted narrowly today to approve the $7-billion U.S.-Japanese program to develop and co-produce the advanced FSX fighter plane for Japan.
On a 9-8 vote, the committee rejected a resolution to disapprove the deal, which has sparked strong criticism on Capitol Hill over technological and economic issues.
A companion resolution of disapproval has been introduced in the House.
Today's committee action on the FSX followed a closed-door intelligence briefing for the Senate panel on Japanese involvement in a suspected Libyan chemical weapons complex.
Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) requested the briefing, saying, "I want to be certain that our co-producers of the FSX, or their associates, are not also co-producing chemical containment components for Libya.
"If there is Japanese involvement in Libyan chemical warfare production, we have the opportunity with the FSX to leverage them out," he added.
Murkowski's concern focused on an industrial complex being built at Rabta, in the desert southwest of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. U.S. officials believe that the complex includes a poison gas plant as well as a metal fabrication plant to produce bomb and shell casings.
At a hearing Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told the Senate committee that there is no evidence that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the prime Japanese contractor for the FSX, had any involvement with the Rabta complex.
Even if resolutions of disapproval to try to block the FSX clear both the full Senate and House, a two-thirds majority in both chambers would be required to override a likely presidential veto.
Under the deal, General Dynamics and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would jointly develop and produce the FSX.